MUNICH — BMW Group has begun production of an early-stage hydrogen-powered crossover — a milestone in the automaker's diversified powertrain strategy.
A test fleet of BMW iX5 Hydrogen vehicles, based on the X5 crossover, will hit the road early next year as the automaker aims to commercialize the technology by decade's end.
BMW is one of a few automakers that see fuel cell technology gaining traction in a world souring on emissions-spewing combustion engine vehicles.
Project manager Thomas Hofmann said fuel cell vehicles combine the emissions-free benefits of EVs with the quick refueling capability — requiring three to five minutes — of gasoline-powered vehicles.
Fast refueling is a unique selling point of the technology, Hofmann told Automotive News at a media briefing this week. "We will not need so many hydrogen refueling stations," he said.
BMW CEO Oliver Zipse sees hydrogen power as the yin to battery power's yang.
"In our view, hydrogen is the missing piece of the puzzle that can complement electromobility in places where battery-electric drivetrains are unable to gain traction," Zipse said this summer.
With much of the auto industry going all-in on electric vehicles, BMW is taking a pragmatic approach — investing in combustion engines, battery-electric and fuel cell powertrains.
"If you want to be resilient, you have to be flexible," Zipse said.